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By Jilin and Paul Hwang

9/1/10 North Korea (UCAN) – A whistle-stop visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to a church in China is not a sign the secretive communist regime’s stance towards religion is softening, South Korean Catholics say.

Kim visited a Catholic church in Jilin in northeastern China during his Aug. 26-30 trip to the country.

The church visit immediately sparked speculation North Korea might relax its rigid stance towards Catholicism and other religions.

“It could be some kind of message related toward religion including Catholicism,” the Hankyoreh daily quoted an anonymous government official saying.

But Church people in South Korea were quick to dismiss such speculation.

It goes too far to say his visit has a hidden message, Father Baptist John Kim Hun-il told ucanews.com on Sept. 1

“It seems the visit was just part of his trip,” the Korean Bishop’s Conference official added.

“North Korea has not given any sign of improving its relationship not only with the Catholic Church but with other religions in South Korea.”

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